784 Tank Battalion embarked from America on 30 October 1944 and reached the port of Le Havre in France on Christmas Day. At that time the frontline was along the German border and the Ardennen- offensive was in swing.
In the first two months of 1945, 784 Tank Bataljon was involved in combat actions right across the Dutch-German border. At that time, the Allied army was occupying the area between the German border and the Ruhr. The next goal was to take the area up to the Rhine.
On February 26, 784 Tank Battalion crossed the river Roer and with a few other units joined Task Force Byrne, whose
task it was to advance to the Rhine and eliminate German opposition along the way. They marched on the east side of the Siegfried line and rolled up the last German defense. They were in Venlo (which had been liberated the day before) on March 2 and in Germany on March 3.
Task Force Byrne was successful until 2 March, and Arthur and his comrades made good progress. That changed on the evening of March 2, when B-company of 784 Tank Battalion was ordered to participate in a night-time attack on the village of Sevelen. That was heavily defended by German Fallschirmjäger units (= paratroopers).
Initially there was little opposition, but that changed when the Allied troops reached the center of Sevelen. The Germans blew up a bridge to the south of the village, cutting off the Americans from reinforcements and supplies.
Arthur and his comrades must have spent a few nervous hours here, but by the end of the morning of March 3, German opposition was broken and Sevelen was in the hands of the Americans. 53 German soldiers died and 207 were taken prisoner of war. The Task Force stayed in Sevelen for the rest of the day.
On March 4, B company of 784 Tank Battalion and the first battalion of 320 Infantry Division were ordered to attack the village of Kamperbruch. The commander did not expect much German opposition, but he was mistaken. The Germans had installed two 75-mm anti-tank guns, which heavily attacked the tanks of 784 Tank Battalion.
Three tanks were hit. The crews from two of the tanks were able to get away safely. However, the crew of Arthur’s tank was less lucky. Their tank was directly hit ... Arthur and two of his comrades - William Hogue and Albert Harte - tragically died.
Arthur Whitbeck died on March 4, 1945 - he was 21 years old.
On March 16, 1945, the Whitbeck family got the telegram that no family ever wants to receive. The original telegram has been preserved:
The secretary of war desires to express his deep regret that your son TEC 4 Whitbeck Arthur J was killed in action in Germany 4 Mar 45, J A Ulio The Adjutant General.